Highly accessible by car and two airports, the “Great Northern Peninsula” is Newfoundland’s largest, most distinctive, and most northern geographical feature. The region consists of two main topographic areas, the high plateau of the Long Range Mountains and the low-lying coastal areas.
At 225 kilometers (140 miles) long and 80 kilometers (50 miles) across at its widest point, it encompasses an area of 17,483 square kilometers (6,750 square miles). Known affectionately as “The Viking Trail“, the Northern Peninsula is a vast, spectacular expanse, and for this reason alone, this post will focus solely on the peninsula’s most northerly tip.
The region is a most unique travel destination with countless historical, cultural, and ecological sites of interest. The Vikings first stepped ashore here 1000 AD followed by European fishermen in the 1500s.
Speckled across 69 charming, coastal communities, you shall find 16,859 residents that call the region home. Their warm, welcoming nature and relaxed lifestyle has touched the hearts of countless visitors.
Below are 12 highly recommended gems for you to explore.
Visit The Life Of A Medical Missionary
Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell was a medical missionary to NL. His life and legacy are proudly on display in St. Anthony both at the Grenfell Historic Properties, through a gallery of interpretive paneling and displays, and at the Grenfell House Museum where Dr. Grenfell, his wife, and three children lived.
The Grenfell House was built between 1909 and 1910. Based on a New England design, the architects were Ash & Sons of Carbonear, Newfoundland. Originally standing alone on the hill, the house became known as “the castle” with flower beds and vegetable gardens. Now overtaken by wildflowers and shaded by trees, it offers you a quiet welcome.
After your visit to Dr. Grenfell’s home, walk the easy Tea House Trail for a spectacular vista of the surrounding area. It gets windy up here, so an added layer of clothing is recommended. Sir Grenfell, his wife, and other colleagues are buried adjacent to this site, commemorated by memorial plaques.
Take An Awe-Inspiring Boat Tour
This 2.5 hour, award-winning whale, iceberg, and seabird boat tour with Northland Discovery in St. Anthony is a truly exhilarating Newfoundland experience. On each tour, experienced local naturalists captivate the audience with a live interpretative program.
On your journey, you will go along the northern Atlantic corridor in the heart of “ice-berg alley”, one of the world’s best places for viewing humpback whales and Atlantic white-beaked dolphins.
Your excursion will also leave you in awe of bird life as you visit colonies of kittiwakes, guillemots, and arctic terns, a bird that has a longer migration than any other creature in the world. Finally, you will encounter islands with spectacular geography as you visit Newfoundland’s largest sea caves.
Have A Feed Of The Finest Fish and Chips
Daily Catch Restaurant in St. Lunaire-Griquet is a top 10 NL fish and chips eatery. Offering fresh, traditional cuisine since 2003, their homemade fish and chips batter has been a staple here for years. Their menu also offers many other seafood and non-seafood options including traditional Newfoundland dishes such as fish cakes, fish and brewis, and pan fried cod.
Daily Catch is ideally perched on a hill peak overlooking picturesque St. Lunaire Bay, the perfect spot for watching majestic icebergs and whales pass by.
Take Part In A Viking Reenactment
Experiential travel does not get any better than a visit to Norstead Viking Village and Port of Trade.
A short distance from the actual UNESCO Viking settlement site at L’Anse aux Meadows, Norstead takes history out of the exhibit case and places it in the hands of visitors.
Here you will join costumed interpreters in the dim light of the Viking-style chieftain’s hall and listen to mysterious Viking tales. You will also step aboard the full-scale replica of the Viking ship “Snorri” and learn how the Vikings mastered the North Atlantic.
Experiential opportunities abound here like learning how to use a simple notched stick to measure distance by the stars, getting your “runes” told by the wise women, and shaping clay into pottery the way the Vikings did.
Visit The Only Known Viking Settlement In North America
L’Anse aux Meadows, the only site of pre-columbian trans-oceanic contact, is the earliest known European settlement in the new world. In fact, Leif Erickson and crews of Norse explorers settled here in Newfoundland (or Vinland as they called it) over a thousand years ago.
The archaeological remains at the site were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 with the discovery of a small cloak pin in 1968 by archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad.
Exhibits here highlight the Viking lifestyle, artifacts, and the archaeological discovery of the site, with reconstruction of three Norse buildings serving as the focal point.
Hike Camel’s Back
Camel’s Back is a 2 kilometer (1.2 mile), 1 hour, round-trip, easy-moderate hike with some loose rock and steep sections. The trail winds through woods, up over a hill to a picnic area overlooking the coves, and then through more forest to reach the higher Camel’s Back, which provides breathtaking views of the surrounding communities.
Directions Nearing the end of St. Lunaire-Griquet, take a turn at Dark Tickle Junction. As you approach a fork in the road, pull to the right and park your vehicle.
Indulge In Delectable Newfoundland Treats
A trip to the Northern Peninsula would not be the same without a visit to the Dark Tickle Company in St. Lunaire-Griquet. Products here are made from hand-picked unique berries, including bakeapple, partridgeberry, wild blueberry, squashberry, and crowberry, which grow on the wild, pristine barrens of Newfoundland.
In June of 2002, the Dark Tickle Company became the first economusee in NL, which promotes traditional craft skills using educational tours with museum-like interpretation.
Note Also visit the lovely cafe on-site.
Tour The French Shore Interpretation Centre
Housed in a former Grenfell nursing station in Conche, the French Shore Interpretation Centre takes you through the history of the French cod fishery on the northeast coast of the Great Northern Peninsula.
Images and artifacts here illustrate the earliest recorded voyages of the French from the early 1500s, until their last trips to tend a cemetery in Croque in the 1970s, through to today’s outport of Irish and English Newfoundlanders.
Visit An Underground Salmon Pool
Situated in Main Brook, the trail which you enter the underground salmon pool, passes through the Beaver Brook watershed.
Geologically, limestone bedrock underlay the watershed, but what makes limestone so distinctive is that as water percolates through the limestone, it dissolves the rocks and creates underground channels. The final result is an impressive system of caves and tunnels.
A beautiful walk through the Boreal forest brings you to this amazing site, a salmon river emerging from an underground cave. The salmon pool runs through a tunnel formed by rock erosion. Here, fish disappear into the opening and then reappear 800 metres away, where they rest before continuing upstream to spawn.
Be Enchanted By Englee
The beautiful Town of Englee is surrounded by a collection of hills, rugged shoreline, and islands off in the distance. Vernacular architecture also abounds the cultural landscape here with several churches and traditional saltbox homes.
For the avid, moderately fit traveler, a short strenuous hike on Barr’d Island Trail (0.5 kilometer/0.31 mile, 30 minutes) is recommended. The trail ascends 164 wooden steps to scale the steep western side of the island, then proceeds through Boreal forest and tuckamore with several lookouts offering spectacular views of Canada Bay and Englee Harbour.
Have A Viking Feast
The Light Keepers Seafood Restaurant/Great Viking Feast in St. Anthony is a replica of the 1000 year old home of Leif Erickson at nearby L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. The “Leifsburdir” as it is called, is the only sod covered restaurant in all of North America. Located in an abandoned light-keeper’s house, this 100 seat dinner theater entertains with food, fun, and feuds at their “althing” or “Viking court of law”.
Live Like A 1940’s Fisherman
Raleigh Historic Village in Raleigh authentically captures the spirit of local fishermen during the booming years of the legendary Newfoundland fishery (circa 1940′s to 1950′s). This recreation of a 1940′s historic fishing village allows you to live and work the quiet, simple life of a traditional fishing family.
Quaint red fishing rooms provide rustic bunkhouse accommodations, heated by wood stove, and equipped with comfy home-made quilts. A shared kitchen for a ‘mug up’ or ‘yarn’ (colloquial Newfoundland terms for food and chat respectively) is provided, with outhouses located on-site.
Boat tours are also offered that will take you along the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve coastline for a picnic lunch inside a big oven cave. On the water, you will see how massive cod traps are set and learn how to jig for codfish. Back on land, you can attend traditional Newfoundland craft classes such as the art of rug hooking, mending nets, splitting fish, and oar making.